Why These Attacks?

The sexual abuse crisis has now led to calls for Pope Benedict to resign the papacy, precisely on the 5th anniversary of John Paul II’s death and his own election. The goal, it seems, is to “strike the shepherd.” Why? To silence the Church’s voice

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome


Global Plague and the Attack on Pope Benedict

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd. Strike the Shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered.” —Zechariah (13:7)

ROME, Italy, Monday, March 29, 2010 — As I write, it is a cool, clear March evening in Rome, and a luminous full moon shines over the Eternal City at the beginning of Holy Week.

But the situation of the world is not holy.

In front of St. Peter’s this evening, there were no protesters. It was calm and peaceful. People were leaving the piazza after a prayer service in memory of Pope John Paul, who died five years ago on April 2. Some had tears in their eyes.

But in the world, there are wars and rumors of wars in various places, wars with much unjust “collateral damage.” There are simmering conflicts in places like Chechnya (a bomb went off in a Moscow metro station this morning, killing two dozen innocent people). And the world’s economic system remains unbalanced and fragile, and profoundly unjust, massively exposed by the manipulations of financial operators to mountains of debt, and so subject to abrupt disruptions, and possible cardiac arrest.

In the midst of all this, Pope Benedict XVI has come under relentless personal attack in the very week of Christ’s Passion.

The world’s media in recent days has been focusing on Pope Benedict’s role in not doing more to prevent the sexual abuse of minors by priests.

There have been calls from Germany, England and Ireland for him to resign. Some are even calling for his arrest.

(See: https://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/pope-benedict-fired-growing-sex-abuse-cover-ups/story?id=10200682)

Are these calls fair? Or are they part of a frenzied campaign to smear his name with false accusations?

Many thoughtful Church observers, including Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, the leading Catholic bishop of England, think it is the latter. (See: https://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100031572/cardinal-ratzinger-acted-powerfully-against-abusers-says-archbishop-vincent-nichols/ and https://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article7076344.ece)

(For a complete, critical analysis of the charges in the New York Times, and a defense of Benedict’s actions in this regard, see: https://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ZDkxYmUzMTQ1YWUyMzRkMzg4Y2RiN2UyOWIzNDVkNDM=)

And the Pope said yesterday, on Palm Sunday, that he would not be intimidated by these attacks.

(See: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/29/world/europe/29pope.html?hp)

Global Plague

“The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles,” the American Catholic writer George Weigel wrote in a March 29 article in First Things magazine.

In short: we are in a child-abusing world.

This “global plague” is our collective shame as human beings.

It is recorded that Jesus only became really angry on two occasions: when he whipped the money-changers out of the Temple court, because “they have made my Father’s house into a den of thieves” and when he denounced the abuse of children, crying out: “Whoever shall offend one of these little ones, it would be better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

And yet, much of our modern culture tolerates, even condones, the sexual exploitation of children.

Perhaps it is time for our culture to have a millstone hung around its neck.

Perhaps it is time for a new culture altogether.

What Are They After?

But is protecting children what the attackers of Benedict are really after?


The recent attacks on Pope Benedict aim to portray him, and the Catholic Church he leads, as “the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young.”

But this is an absurd, false, charge.

It is absurd because Benedict has for decades been in the forefront of proclaiming the need for our modern culture to be less sexually abusive, and he has acted when others did not act, even almost alone, and courageously, against great pressures, in particular in the case of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

In his address in Subiaco, Italy, on April 1, 2005, the day before Pope John Paul II died, Benedict (then still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) spoke, in a way that not a single other leader of the Church has spoken, of the imperative to cleanse the Church of “filth.”

Benedict is the modern Pope who has sought most energetically to cleanse the Church of corrupt tendencies and practices which, from various sources — some known, some unknown or only partially known — took root within the Church decades ago, under other Popes… under John Paul II, under Paul VI, under, even, Pius XII.

And now Benedict is being attacked for not having done enough.

This is a travesty that begs for explanation. Why Benedict? Why now?

To Silence an Inconvenient Voice

“The narrative that has been constructed [by the world’s media] is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down — and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy,” Weigel argued. “For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors, then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument.”

This seems a possible answer — that an agenda lies behind these attacks against this Pope, and that that agenda is to so shame the Pope in the eyes of the world that his voice, the voice of the Catholic Church, will be eliminated “as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy.”

It is a surgical operation.

But why is this important precisely at this time? That is the final question.

The answer must be in some way connected to our historical situation. It must be that we are at an “inflection point,” or soon will be — an historical moment when society will have to grapple with many policy debates on matters that are of fundamental important to very powerful forces in this world.

It must be that there are now occurring — or will soon occur — debates in which the voice of the Church, the wisdom of the Christian faith and tradition, could be critical to balancing, even rejecting, an “anti-Christian” vision of the world which seems to be growing stronger day by day, and therefore, that voice must be silenced.

The “anti-Christian” vision is one which believes human life is not sacred, and so does not have to be defended in the womb; that marriage is not simply and intrinsically between a man and a woman, and so can be entered into by members of the same sex; that fundamental civil liberties — freedoms — can be sacrificed in dramatic economic times…


The Bottom Line

Children must be protected, their innocence defended — both from deviant priests, who must be punished, and from myriad deviant forces in modern society, which should be fought and overthrown.

The Church, aware of grave flaws in her administrative procedures over the years, must reform those procedures, and, under Benedict XVI, is doing so.

But the attempt to ruin the name of this Pope, and so the moral authority of the Church in general, seems to be part of a larger design that, in the name of truth and justice and our human future, also must be fought.

It may not be an easy battle.

The archbishop of Dublin, Ireland, Diarmuid Martin, gave a homily on Palm Sunday.

“I, as Archbishop of Dublin, am committed to working with all of you who wish to renew our Church, to purify our Church from all that has damaged the face of Christ,”?Martin said.

“These have not been easy days for me personally. But with the many believers who wish to journey together on the path of renewal, I know that that path will inevitably be a way of the Cross…

“The challenge is not to follow the short-cuts of the disciples who found that fleeing was the quick and easy answer…

“Our challenge is to be like Jesus who, with all the anguish and fear it entails, does not flinch or waver in remaining faithful to the will of his Father, even at the price of enduring the ignominious death on a criminal’s cross.”


(For a series of articles on this crisis, see the following link: https://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=5856)


Special note: Three years ago, we participated in a concert in Rome (on March 29, 2007) in which a Russian choir and orchestra, flying in from Moscow, performed a new version of The Passion According to St. Matthew composed a few months before by the young Russian Orthodox bishop (now archbishop and “foreign minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church, Hilarion Alfeyev).

That moving concert, in which one or two of the exhausted women singers fainted on stage and had to be carried off, was broadcast live worldwide via a Vatican Television Center feed by EWTN.

No DVD or CD was ever made of that concert — until a few days ago. After nearly three years, we have finally produced the DVD and CD of that historic concert, and they aqre now available for sale.

I believe the sound of this music, and the sight of the performance, especially duing Holy Week, when we recall Christ’s Passion, will bring tears to your eyes.

The DVD and CD of this historic concert are now available on at website at the following link: https://insidethevatican.com/products/concerts-dvd-cd.htm

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